Issue 1, 2007


           The featured author of this issue is a poet and artist, Yala Korwin, a holocaust survivor.

This issue is dedicated to the Jewish topic and is my tribute to Aron Katsenelinboigen with whom we constantly discussed the subject and whose concept of incompatibility and its applications became a basis for his speculations about the degree of tolerance of Jews in different cultures. Besides, his original concept of Indeterministic Developing God in the Torah excited me and inspired my trilogy About Angels, About God, About Poetry (Livingston, 2002) as well as the recent film-ballet, About Angels, etc. (2006). Both works are naturally dedicated to Aron.

In this issue I’m publishing two of Aron’s works, one of which is an excerpt from his book, 18 Questions and Answers on the Torah that he, unfortunately, didn’t manage to publish. I still hope that this marvelous book will see the light of the day.

My own interest in the topic was provoked by a question of differentiation between the two notions: the Jewish and the Judaic. My observations on many discussions about the nature of the intolerance of Jewish population made me conclude that these two notions have been constantly mixed, which caused some essential confusions.

The difference between the Jewish and the Judaic is clear: the former concerns the origin. The latter belongs to the religious domain. Jewish origin was carefully studied by Nazis and was very well learned by Russian Jews and non-Jews. In Russia, Jews were always treated as aliens whose non-Slavic features distinguished them from the Russian population, and the Jewish ancestry became a racial issue long before Hitler’s study. Until now, Russian immigrants can easily tell who is of a Jewish origin and who is not, simply by glancing at the passing-by men and women. (I’m sure the same goes with the German descendants). They wouldn’t be able, however, to detect the religious affiliation of one unless some religious attributes are present. This example is a perfect experimental verification of the difference between the Jewish and the Judaic.

The differentiation between the two notions may assist one in making better decisions in situations when the fight for rights is either impossible (as it was, for example, in the former Soviet Union) or highly undesirable, but the question of the survival becomes vital. The hunted group should clarify for itself what exactly makes it a target – the race or the religion. The outcome would depend on the ability to get at the root of the problem.

It’s not a secret that many Russian Jews gladly accepted the revolution and were among the most enthusiastic revolutionaries who propagated atheism. Their hope was that the annihilation of the religious institution will wash out the borders between the cultures and, thus, put the end to their discrimination.

Alas! Their expectations proved to be wrong. Although the Russian state was separated from religion, the officials introduced the fifth paragraph in the passport in which one had to write his nationality. The trick, however, was that Jewry was pronounced a nationality and, thus, the problem was taken down to the previous. Some Jews bribed officials and changed their nationality to survive the oppressive regime, but as people from Odessa were often joking, “the pogrom-makers will hit you in your Jewish face, not in your Russian passport.”

The fifth paragraph made all Russian Jews convinced that being Jewish is not geographical or religious but racial thing. The newcomers were truly surprised and confused when Americans told them otherwise and called them Russians. Such attempts to mix them with their oppressors raised a great hue and cry among the older population of Jewish immigrants who refused to define themselves as Russians.

 Retrospectively, I understand their funny protests and think they make sense since the Jewishness is in the blood while the Judaic isn’t.

 These notes, however, are not about the Jews. My intent is to show how the non-differentiation between the two notions results in a schizophrenic thinking of those Christians who practice anti-Semitism. The Russian culture – the cradle of the Orthodox Christianity – becomes one of the most revealing examples of such a schizophrenic thinking.

“The baptized kike is like a pardoned thief,” says a famous Russian proverb. In other words, no matter what religion a Jewish person practices his Jewish origin will always remain a spot on his biography: he’ll be viewed as a potential thief. Outrageous? Yes. Consistent? No.

Indeed, those Christians who practice anti-Semitism are put in a difficult position since no matter whom they pray – the Jew by the name Jesus Christ, or his mother, or the apostles they constantly stumble across their own inconsistency to overcome which they should either stop practicing anti-Semitism or stop practicing Christianity. Both tasks are not easy.

At the dawn of his career Martin Luther wrote the following:

“The Jews are blood-relations of our Lord; if it were proper to boast of flesh and blood, the Jews belong more to Christ than we. I beg, therefore, my dear Papist, if you become tired of abusing me as a heretic, that you begin to revile me as a Jew.”

Later, however, he changes his position and condemns Jews. Not the Jews who practice Christianity, though. Luther pounces upon those who practice Judaism and distort, from his point of view, basic principles of Christianity. At this point, he appears to be anti-Judaist, not anti-Semite. Does it justify his intolerance? Of course not! Still, he didn’t condemn the Jewish blood unlike Hitler whose study was directed toward identification and extermination of Jews as a race.  

Talking about some recent anti-Judaic movements, one can also mention Mel Gibson’s boring movie about Jesus Christ. What is his position as the director? Is he anti-Semitic or anti-Judaic? To me, it’s the latter since all Christian Jews are shown in quite a positive light in the film. Still, even in case of anti-Judaism one can’t escape the inconsistency unless he changes the prayer “In the name of Father, and Son, and the Holy Spirit” by a shorter and more consistent with anti-Judaic movement, version: “In the name of Son.”

Regarding the racial hatred of Jews, Hitler as a Christian was of course aware of his contradiction therefore, he attempted to create a new religion by bringing in heathenism. As it is known he introduced the cult of Asatru to advance his Nazi ideology and thus, get rid of the “dirty Jew” and his popular religion.

The understanding of the two sources of the hatred of Jews in different cultures should also open the eyes of those who live in countries like Russia, hoping to assimilate and become like “everyone else.”  They live in denial until a new tragedy will make them face the undeniable – that they’ve always treated as the “pardoned thieves”… Unfortunately, the history likes repetitions.

Needless to say, even such countries have their intelligentsia that may not agree with the racial or religious hatred. Such good-hearted groups, however, do not belong to the critical mass in countries like Russia.

Thinking about the genesis of Christianity, it was probably another attempt to save the Jewish ancestry by creating a religion that would unite all nationalities and races like later it was done by atheism. "There is no Jew, and there is no Hellene." Well, it did work for some cultures whose accent was purely on religious beliefs. But just for some…

I would like to finish my brief commentaries by telling a story that took place in my husband’s family.

During the Second World War his grandmother’s brother by the name Elik, was taken to Auschwitz along with other Jews. One day, the Germans cto execute them. People were ordered to dig their graves and when they were done the execution began. Soon, everything was finished and the bodies of dead Jews covered the soil. Some of them were still moving, exhaling their last moan. Only one person remained standing on the edge of the grave. It was Elik. The officer ordered to open the fire. Elik was still standing. Then he took the gun, aimed at Elik and made a shot. Elik stood still. The officer took Elik to the office, gave him a certificate that Elik was a saint and let him go. Elik was smart enough not to return to his atheistic country that didn’t believe in saints and, instead, escaped to the US. In the US he lived a decent but lonely life, never had a family, and the only thing that was left after him was the story about his miraculous survival.

Elik’s survival is no less mysterious to me than the behavior of the officer who gave him the certificate. Was he anti-Semite or anti-Judaist when he executed the Jews? And who was he when he made Elik a saint? Well, sometimes the schizophrenic thinking may cause good results. One, however, shouldn’t have any illusions regarding its dangerous nature.

                                                                                                           V. Ulea, Editor-In-Chief


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